Children Held Hostage
"I still remember what I felt then; it was such a shock," says Pastor D, who immediately began asking them questions. The children, ages 8 to 16, were apparently born and raised in Texas, living with their adoptive mother in Houston just one year before. She had taken them to Nigeria and had left them there with a man she barely knew. Their caretakers soon disappeared, and the children were left to fend for themselves.
What started as a humanitarian tour for these pastors became an all out rescue mission. But with no passports, the seven American orphans could not just leave the country with the pastors. The pastors promised they'd work to get the children home.
It is the first time the children have seen their heroes since the day they met in Nigeria!
Oprah: What does it feel like to see the children here on American soil?
Pastor D: We did it. We promised you [the children] we were going to do it. I say a lot of words. I believe in doing what you say. We promised them at that time not really knowing how, but believing that God would make the way…. It's just wonderful.
Eric (rescued child): Thank you for bringing us back. Thank you for everything you have done for my brothers and sisters. You seem like a miracle to me and I want you in my life. I love you. You're family.
"We're very happy to have you safely back here in Houston," says Patrick Ewing in a special message. "Oprah, make sure you give them all a big hug from me. I have big arms. And, kids, I'm looking forward to meeting you after the game."
Also, since the children missed so much school while they were in Nigeria, the Sylvan Learning Center is providing each child with a year of free tutoring!
Kim Murphy and Sergei Loiko of the Los Angeles Times jumped on the story immediately.
Kim: The entire town seemed to have been taken hostage. … Everyone was waiting. Everyone was agonizing. Everybody was just hoping that there was a way out of this situation. And they waited there day and night.
Oprah: What was going on in the hearts and minds of the Russian people?
Sergei: Unfortunately, [they] have grown accustomed to living in the atmosphere of constant terrorist threats… But this time—this time it's a horrible tragedy.
Leaving her daughter behind, Zalina was forced to walk out with only her son. For 21 hours, a terrified Zalina and her husband waited in agony outside the school. When Russian soldiers finally stormed the building, Zalina and her husband Batraz searched desperately for Alana. They found her lying in a hospital, covered in someone else's blood, but with no major wounds. Batraz has six other relatives who were held hostage in the school, including his sister who was seriously injured and is still in a Moscow hospital.
Oprah: How does a mother make that choice?
Zalina: I wasn't making a choice. I didn't understand what I was doing. There wasn't time to think about it.
Oprah: How do you feel, Batraz, about all that has happened?
Batraz: This can happen anywhere in the world. Not only Beslan. Anywhere in the world. I don't want kids in the world to feel that and know that and have this experience.
First Sgt. Daniel Hendrex and Capt. Chad M. Roehrman led Dragon Company in Iraq and say Steve-O became invaluable to American forces. Over several months, Steve-O went on 20 missions with Dragon Company and identified mujahadeen who were trying to gain access to their base. "Steve-O just happened to look at pictures of several high value targets," First Sgt. Hendrex says. "He started calling them by name. He knew where they lived, how they were connected. He turned out to be one of the greatest informants we had."
Oprah: How did you get the courage to go to the American soldiers?
Steve-O: [My father] asked me to be with the mujahadeen, to kill Americans, and I [didn't] want that—because I saw the Americans were good…. They didn't come to harm us. They helped us.
Steve-O is now in the U.S., as his mother has been killed and he is unprotected in Iraq with other family and friends. First Sgt. Hendrex says he's working to get Steve-O medical attention for wounds inflicted by his own father, as well as funds for an education.